The Ultimate A To Z Of Album Reviews By Gary Steel – T

May 15, 2021
11 mins read

Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘T’.



Tackhead – Friendly As A Hand Grenade (World)

1990/RTR Countdown

It’s hard and noisy like a metal mutha. It’s black and soulfully sung. Its street-level politics are, like Ice-T’s, right-on! What you talkin’ about, boyeee? The name of this group is Tackhead and its record has been around for a while, but only on limited import. Which is dumb. This record should be MASSIVE! These guys are the original Grandmaster Flash rhythm section, with English industrial-dub producer Adrian Sherwood mixing up a storm. Quite unlike anything else you’ve heard. 7/10

Taste Of Bounty – Party Time (Maui 12”)


Taste Of Bounty have a pub band’s propensity for needless diversity. TOB’s unfortunate dilemma: their songs are unhappy combinations of genres, with no target audience in sight.

‘Party Time’ itself certainly swings, of a fashion, but the theme is cliché-city, and it’s not, for all intent, a real rage. ‘Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em Man’ has ‘heavy’ block chording in the intro, then moves awkwardly into a pedestrian soul number; maybe okay for the blunted drunk sensibilities of Joe Blow on pub night, but in my living room? In the harsh light of day? ‘White Sandshoes’ is almost HM, and it’s horrible. ‘Patu (Zimbabwe Revisited)’ is a meaningless instrumental of no consequence.

On record, TOB unwittingly display all the pub rock cliches that a band like Herbs sensibly screen for their vinyl excursions. I don’t mean to be unnecessarily harsh. I even wanted to like this record. It is, however, not good.

James Taylor – The Best Of James Taylor (Warner Bros)

June 2003/Metro

Commonly painted as dweeb folk music for passive-aggressive hippies, James Taylor (along with Crosby Stills Nash & Young) heralded an era of early ‘70s, soporific Californian confessional singer-songwriting that barely hinted at the semi-suicidal junkie within. And for all its ultimate vacuity, these yearning-for-the-simple-life songs still have an odd charm, despite Taylor’s rather flat, nerdish vocals. And those backing cats, those guys with names like Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel and Danny Kortchmar; well, they were kinda funky in an odd way. Twenty tracks of this stuff would send anyone to the analyst’s couch, but… more importantly, there’s not one shot of Taylor’s balding pate in the pic-filled booklet. It was Joni Mitchell who sang of her then boyfriend in 1973: “I’m watching your hairline recede/My vain darling.” 6/10

Technotronic – Pump Up The Jam (Possum)

1990/RTR Countdown

How come the inferior dance bands always end up setting the charts on fire? This derivative dance material is innately mediocre. Listen, there’s better stuff out there! 5/10

10cc – Greatest Hits (Mercury)

1979/Evening Post

10cc’s Greatest Hits is just that – a collection of their hit singles, not necessarily the best music 10cc have recorded.

The singles are tackled in mostly chronological order, starting with 1972’s classic satire ‘Rubber Bullets’, moving through all their other hits ending with last year’s ‘Dreadlock Holiday’.

There are a few trivial novelties marring the flow (‘Donna’ and ‘Good Morning Judge’), but these do not affect the brilliance of the ultra-cynical ‘Life Is A Minestrone’, or the beautiful ballad ‘I’m Mandy, Fly Me’.

In retrospect, it’s interesting to note that the best tunes are co-authored by Graham Gouldman, 10cc’s bassist/vocalist and writer of many hits including The Yardbirds’ ‘For Your Love’ and Herman Hermits’ ‘No Milk Today’.

The later songs, minus Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, are less incisively cutting, but more melodically interesting than earlier material.

Ultimately, 10cc is kept from greatness by the lack of atmosphere: lots of interesting, quirky ideas melded to pop music does not great music make. 6/10


10,000 Maniacs – The Wishing Chair (Elektra)

1986/Evening Post

Like the name, but it doesn’t really fit a group whose collective sound echoes the folk-rock bands of the early ‘70s rather than their pop and punk contemporaries. Natalie Merchant uses her plaintive but one-dimensional vocal cords to generally good effect on a bunch of songs often too happy for the tone of the lyrics. To their credit, they have attempted to write intelligently about politics, war and death, as well as love. A subtle one that might very well sneak up and charm me. Just wish it would hurry. 6/10


Terror Of Tinytown – I Am The Need (Z Disc 12”)


Not as much fun as I expected from a lineup containing the infamous Julian Hanson and friends, ‘I Am The Need’ is overly Simple Minds-derived, and Hanson’s keyboard work and Jim Kerr-inflected vocals are to blame. Aside from the SM-like shimmering synths and big boomy-bottom sound, we have a chorus straight out of some forgotten ‘60s band’s repertoire, a strange combination. B-side ‘See The Change’ is a mite predictable pop number with a few nice touches and a sense of humour. What more could you ask for? I bet they’re fun live.

They Might Be Giants – Flood (Elektra)

1990/RTR Countdown

Flood by They Might Be Giants is pretty neat and something of a rarity. Like fellow yanks (the sadly ignored) Camper Van Beethoven, post-REM duo Giants make pop/rock with more than a dash of humour. The funny factor is central to the music, which is energetically conceived and played, and tuneful throughout. You can whistle to this stuff, but you don’t grow tired of it. It’s a little self-consciously clever in parts, but the extremely sober ‘Racist Friend’ helps to balance the scales. Another album worth investigating is Love Junk (Chrysalis) by The Pursuit Of Happiness, which is almost a companion to Flood in style and content. 7/10


That Petrol Emotion – Babble (Polydor)

1987/Evening Post

The remnants of Ireland’s ultimate pop band – The Undertones – with a new name, a new singer, and a debut LP. Babble is a quirky, cheeky, uncompromising pop record with something to say and an edge to express it with. 6/10

This Sporting Life – Show Me The Bellrope (Flying Nun)

December 1982, IT Magazine

I hesitate to call this 30-minute-plus song slab a single, despite the $6.99 price-tag. Quite simply, Show Me The Bellrope would be an essential purchase at twice the price. The sound will be familiar to those of you who grooved to Alms For Children last year, as this is the same line-up with another name.

This disc is great – the sort of pulsating, damaging, reaction-demanding attack that makes you wonder how you ever got sucked in by the ABC’s and Spandau Ballet’s of this world. (Did we?)

I only have two minor complaints: the somewhat trebly 4-track Flying Nun sound quality, which ain’t pulsating enough by half, and the group’s penchant for repetition in song structure. 7/10

This Sporting Life – In Limbo (Flying Nun)

TSL sported a burning fury which distanced them from the rest of the punk pack. The final four songs sound dated but still invigorate; the indefinable made them more than merely good, but somehow whatever they had was never carried through to greatness. 7/10

Throwing Muses – Furious (4AD/Flying In)

1993/RTR Countdown

Kristin Hirsh writes and sings some distinctive, intensely personal songs, but this is musically arid US ‘alternative’ rock without the eccentricities of their previous records. Except for ‘Summer St’ and ‘Pearl’, two wondrous… well, pearls in a sea of monotony. 5/10

The Tin Syndrome – The Tin Syndrome (Jayrem EP)


On the vinyl evidence, I would presume that when they recorded this, The Tin Syndrome were having a flirtation with the Europ-dance of Simple Minds, et al. Not that this debut is derivative of Simple Minds… but it does use some of the musical stylisations that I find appealing in the genre. That is: an emphasis on guitar/synth creating musical textures while bass and drums propel along in danceable fashion.

‘Street Song’ is the most obvious example of that direction. ‘American Blessing is a (very good) political satire which gets a little too wordy to fit easily. I love the music of ‘When I Get To The Next Salon I’d Love To See The Plan’ (phew). It’s a pity the ambiguity of the lyrics tends to cloud the feeling. Suggestion: read the lyrics to the song separately. As for ‘Superman’, well… it’s fast and bouncy and maybe a little too cute. The Tin Syndrome on this debut show loads of promise. 7/10


Tinytown – Back To The Bow/Big Fish (self-released)


An economic sound, two excellent tracks on a flexidisc from England by a band comprising members formerly of Desperate Bicycles and Australian band Birds Of Tin. Their sound is one that, like another Australian band The Go-Betweens, grows in charm with time; a sound that is in no way overdone, but has plenty of latent dynamics on recoil. The accompanying letter invited those who wish to receive a copy of the record to send a large SAE to 16 Clarissa House, Clarissa St, London E8 4HE.


Tombolas – Glad To Gladiate/Vandalised (Eelman)

1986/Evening Post

From the Hulamen/Pelicans axis comes more rolling, rollicking good times. They’ve got the former’s swinging good humour and soul, and the latter’s inability to carry good ideas past conceptualisations. Good fun, if this is your idea of it. 5/10


Tomorrow’s Parties – To The Beat/Boys (Jayrem 12” 45)


Jayrem may very well not be unblemished aesthetically, but they sure know how to pick winners, and I reckon Tomorrow’s Parties are poised to make another killing for the local label. You heard the Auckland band do ‘To The Beat’ on RWP. Trite, derivative, blah blah blah. But also catchy, radio-playable, etc. It’s got a contrived ‘60s-style melody and Blondie-like approach. ‘Boys’ is a concert rave-up, cheap fun and more indicative of the real live thing. PS, Sooner ‘To The Beat’ at Number 1 than Bonnie Raitt or any other imported bilge. 5/10

Tora Tora – Surprise Attack (A&M)

1990/RTR Countdown

Cliched lite-metal derivation of Led Zeppelin. Very 1973. When are they gonna start recycling those Montrose records? 5/10

Pete Townshend – White City A Novel (Atco)

1986/Evening Post

Townshend is one of the few great, literate songwriters, and White City never suggests a talent flagging but… While no one could deny the power of, say, the steamrolling aperitif ‘Give Blood’, there’s seriously askew here. It could be that he’s just not as interested in making music these days as writing books and movies.

Ambition has got the better of him before. It could simply be that he’s let his heavyweight rock buddies weigh down the sound with a conventional big rock production.

Not that the sounds on White City are old hat. Much of the time they mix the rock sound of The Who and Pink Floyd with some spectacularly modern production values. Pete and his nose may think he knows best, but this man’s at his best when his songs are stripped down to their bones. The arrangements here have become camouflage, not decoration.

White City is a film, a video cassette, a record, a short story (see back cover) and a novel? As a collection of songs, it works well, though all but diehard Who fans will be stifling yawns by the second half of Side 2.

Note: A definite black mark is the use of David Gilmour’s guitar arrangement on White City Fighting, which some six months previously graced a completely different song, the very lovely ‘Hope’ from Roy Harper’s latest album. 5/10


The Tourists – The Tourists (Logo)

1979/Evening Post

The Tourists stay at home on their debut album. 5/5

The Trephines – Wall Of Wairarapa (South Indies)

1987/Evening Post

Occasionally ill-defined but generally overwhelmingly promising, five songs about stuff like sex and the bomb, emotional turmoil, meaninglessness, our fair city and Ray Columbus, all politely ambitious, and all pop like there should be more of. 6/10

Tubes – The Completion Backward Principle (Capitol)

1981/In Touch

A much-Dolbyised, REO Speedwagonised Tubes make their bid for commercial success via a conceptual non-concept (i.e. a fart in the bath). The sort of thing Zappa might create in his sleep. White ‘punks’ up in smoke. 3/10


Tubeway Army – Tubeway Army (WEA)

1980/In Touch

This is Numan/Tubeway Army’s first LP, released in New Zealand for the first time and tying in with a tour by the man himself. It’s Numan as punk. You can tell his heart really isn’t in it: shouting aggressively just ain’t his style. But he gets the odd chance to try out his Bowie inflections, too.

It’s very easy to criticise Numan. His vocals allow a little emotion to slip through here and the subject matter is allowed breathing space, unlike his later, honed-down image. The music itself tries hard to be aggressive, but fails on that score. Numan’s guitar work (this is a guitar as opposed to synthesiser-based album) is straight out of some forgotten psychedelic scrapbook, while many of the tunes are Cars in foetal form.

While the sound lacks the well-defined crispness of later work, Tubeway Army does provide an insight of sorts into Numan’s head, as he allows himself the liberty of a little real emotion and musical eclecticism. This is most evident in the acoustic ‘Everyday I Die’, which shows Numan the folk singer-songwriter!

Numan freaks will love it, but others (there seems to be no inbetween) had better stay away. The essential Numan album is (and probably will remain) Replicas, but this is an interesting debut, even coming three years late.

Personally, I take my Numan one track at a time, but for those hooked on bigger doses of the sound, there’s plenty of it here. Just a little bonus for the fans. 6/10


Turiiya – Waiting (Jayrem)

1986/Wellington City

Unique acoustic music by an all-women Auckland collective, Waiting spins a special spell through its use of refreshing choral work, and a simple but crystal-clear interweaving of acoustic guitar, effects and (what sounds like) a bowed double-bass. Turiya has a big social conscience, which results in themes that are at times naively self-conscious. Add a bit of lyrical sting to ‘Crimson Dawn’, the album’s opus, and I could listen to it with other people in the room without turning scarlet. Don’t judge it on the opening track, ‘Thread Of Gold’, which is a plaintive love song quite untypical of the rest of Waiting. 7/10  


Two Armed Men (Jayrem 12” EP)


Deciduous locals Wayne Mason, Ross Burge and Jonathan Crayford are Two Armed Men. The threesome are professional musicians who have in the recent past confined themselves to bread-and-butter pub and studio session work. Anyone with a head for nostalgia will remember Mason’s Fourmyula from the ‘60s, at one time NZ’s most successful original group. It must be a pain after so many years – NZ being the son-of-a-sow that it is – in which to make a decent living as a musician/songwriter. ‘Twist Of Fate’, ‘Bomb-Ta-Ba’Bomb’ and ‘Tell Me Now’ are all mid-tempo pop/rock tunes given a low-key, rather stodgy treatment. ‘Diligent Civilian’ is the exception, in that it’s hard and fast, but not great. Two Armed Men lack lustre and an identifiable sound. However, if it’s the Clarendon Friday night socialising set they’re after, then perhaps they’ve hit the right button. 5/10


Tycoon – Tycoon (Arista)


Tycoon is a faceless New York sextet with impeccable credentials – members served their apprenticeship with among others, Lou Reed, Johnny Winter and even an ex-Beatle.

But the music on their album amazingly resembles Uriah Heep (semi-heavy metal bubblegum music) and Grant Funk Railroad (beefy, dumb,  harmony vocals).

They have of course ditched the half-baked concepts and presentation, exchanging it for a slick, radio-orientated, homogenised sound.

Tycoon is 1970-75 encapsulated, with an added sense of economy, and the ability to write naggingly familiar tunes, as can be sampled on ‘Such A Woman’, ‘Count On Me’, or ‘Cry No More’. Tailored to please, thoroughly calculated. 5/5

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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